Faith only and salvation. It works.
Because of comments made by some readers who understandably thought of our initial salvation, I thought I would explain how I think James’ principle of ‘faith must have works’ would fit. Remember though, James didn’t write this to speak of our initial salvation but I think we can make application.
After reading James 2:14-26, one is led to the conclusion that “faith only” does not save. In other words, “faith” by itself, is as dead as a body without the spirit. The conclusion then would seem to be that works are necessary for our salvation. Yet a good study of Paul, in Romans, would reveal that works do not save either. (Though it might be better to say ‘works do not earn salvation.”)
So how can I stand up and say I believe in faith only? The key to this statement is in the definition of faith. This is the crux of the problem and causes many many problems in the mind of believers. If used the way those mentioned in Hebrews 11 used it, I don’t think I would have a problem saying I am saved by my faith alone.
However, if faith is used the way so many use it today, then I would line up with James and say ‘Faith only’ will not save. This is because many use it in just the way James says we should not use it. This is not as surprising as it is distressing. Language changes and I think it is one of the reasons why God, in His wisdom, gave us the New Testament in a dead language.
Most know that, while the Greek language is still alive today, the Greek of the New Testament hasn’t been spoken or used in 2000 years (give or take) so “faith”, as used then, should be the way we use faith today OR the concept should be found in a modern word.
“Quicken” is a word used in the Old King James Bible. Today, if someone talks about Quicken we think of Tax software but since English has changed, today, “make alive” is a better translation than “quicken” would be. Faith is like that. However, when the word itself is still used and the meaning has changed, it creates problems, confusion and misunderstanding.
I remember the first time I was asked if I was “gay”. (Yes, I know, I am dating myself.) This was in the 70’s and I was in Jr. High. To me, at that time, ‘gay’ meant happy. (“Gay”wasn’t a word used a lot to begin with but I knew what it meant, just not how they were using it.) Teasing of Jr. High boys aside, the word was just beginning to change and no one uses the word to mean “happy” today.
James is the only writer that took time to pull “faith” apart into separate components and separate the belief in something from the actions that result from that belief. While he condemns this thought process, this is exactly how it is used today. This is why if I say that I believe in ‘faith only’ an impression is left that I don’t mean.
So in relation to Salvation, does faith only save?
If I were to suggest (and I do) that a person be baptized for the remission of sins to be saved, I will quickly be accused of believing in water salvation or baptismal regeneration. Yet, If I suggest (and I do) that person needs to repent or confess Christ, people nod in agreement. What is the difference?
All three are actions. All three are works. And even more to the point, NONE of the three earn your salvation. They do, however, like Abraham, complete our faith. (2:22) Take any or all three of them and separate them from faith, will the actions save? No. Take Faith and separate them from the actions, will the faith save? Only “yes” or “no” will answer the question. Which is it?
Because so many are against a works based salvation, anything that sounds like earning your salvation is considered anathema and I agree, earning your salvation cannot be done. Even faith does not earn it but who would suggest that without faith you can be saved? (Heb 11:6 ‘without faith it is impossible to please Him…) But is it works based salvation to preach what Jesus told the apostles to preach? Is it works based to say “repent” or “confess” or “be baptized”?
Teaching must be done on this subject. Let me speak to those who are teachers for a moment. Which may be appropriate since James is going to talk about teachers in chapter 3. If faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), what word of God are you teaching to those you preach to? If you tell a person about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, do you do it the way it is practiced today or the way the Apostles practiced it in Acts?
Somewhere, it has become popular to add the “sinner’s prayer”. When I read the original commission by Jesus to the disciples, I don’t see it. When I read the book of Acts and listen to the sermons of the Apostles, I don’t see it. When I read the epistles and see Paul talk about when your sins were forgiven, I don’t see it referenced.
Would someone who reads this blog, please point me to the sinner’s prayer in the Bible?
I would suggest that anyone who preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ will do it the way Peter did it. (cf Acts 2) Because that is what Jesus told them to do. In this way, those that respond in faith to the Gospel will respond the way people did in the book of Acts.
If it is going to be salvation by faith, I would rather it be faith in the words of Christ, than faith in the modern practices of today.
Posted on December 17, 2011, in Christianity, Faith, salvation and tagged christianity, commentary on James, faith, faith only, faith without works, salvation, salvation by works. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.